by michael on May 28, 2011

The ethics of rhetoric is a topic that has intrigued me for years. I’ve lectured to lawyers and other groups about the morality of words and the power of words. Words have moral power and that power can be abused. When abused, the use of words is immoral.

The morality of words can be measured and judged. Analogies can be morally evaluated. I would not take the time to comment on immoral thinking and writing since there is so much of it unless a specific incident offered a lesson or reinforced a lesson that might be helpful to those likely to visit this blog.

Here is such an example. Moments ago I read an article by Doug Farrar posted on the Shutdown Corner on what seems to be a Yahoo sports blog. The article is titled
Tiki Barber puts his foot in it again with ‘Anne Frank’ comment

The article beings this way:
While brother Ronde appears to be the very soul of dignity as he continues his future Hall of Fame career down in Tampa Bay, former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber managed to offend quite a few people with a recent comment. Explaining the media scrutiny he’s received since he left his pregnant wife to be with his 23-year-old girlfriend, Barber told L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated that he moved into the attic of his agent, Mark Lepselter, to escape prying eyes.
“Lep’s Jewish,” Barber allegedly said, “and it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing.”

Oh yeah? A reverse Anne Frank?
Analyzing Barber’s comparison illuminates why it is so vile, immoral and anti Semitic But again, the point is not to dwell on Barber’s contemptible remark but to teach the skill of analyzing words and making moral judgments about them.

Here’s why Barber’s words are so vile and immoral.
Barber equates his status with the status of Anne Frank hiding in an office for two years. Let’s take a look at the facts and compare them and then make a moral judgment on Barber’s analogy.

The details of Anne short life are well established. According to Wikipedia, Anne was born in the city of Frankfurt am Main in Weimar Germany.
The Frank family moved from Germany to Amsterdam in 1933, the year the Nazis gained control over Germany.
By the beginning of 1940, they were trapped in Amsterdam by the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. As persecutions of the Jewish population increased in July 1942, the family went into hiding in the hidden rooms of Anne’s father, Otto Frank’s, office building. After two years, the group was betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, were eventually transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they both died of typhus in March 1945.
Anne gained international fame posthumously following the publication of her diary, which documents her experiences hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.

Let’s take a look at the facts relating to Tiki Barber and then compare them to the facts relating to Anne Frank. Barber is a young fabulously wealthy ex NFL football star. He enjoys all the trappings of great wealth, including television appearances and access to the media.

He voluntarily traded in his pregnant wife for a younger lady. Moral issues beyond the scope of my blog cascade down like the Niagara Falls. Barber’s behavior evidently drew the attention of the media. Barber found such attention unpleasant so he went into hiding. He “hid” in the attick of his Jewish agent, Mark Lepselter.

What the word “hiding” in the attic of a presumably wealthy agent in a presumably up-scale home is not clarified. It is reasonable to conclude, however, that such hiding does not include being hunted down by Gestapo, SS officers, local police and German Sheppard dogs to take Tiki to his immediate death.

Anne Frank was not hiding voluntarily. Anne Frank and her family were threatened with extermination. Tiki Barber might be subjected to loud questioning. They are not the same. Barber hid voluntarily, whatever, again, ‘hid’ means. Barber trivializes Anne Frank’s experience by analogizing his self-induced temporary removal from the media. Barber’s words demean every Holocaust victim. Barber’s analogy is morally obscene.

Barber is represented by a Jewish agent. To his infinite shame, according to Pro Football Talk, Lepselter defended his client, claiming that Barber was trapped in the attic for a week.

Trapped? Trapped like Anne Frank? Oh, I see the analogy! Do you?
A week in a luxury home one can leave at any time is factually and morally equivalent to hiding from the Gestapo?

Whether Lepselter defended his client for the pragmatic but unprincipled reason of placing money over morality or whether Lepselter is profoundly morally obtuse or for both reasons, is not disclosed and perhaps will never be known.

Why so many Jews are so solicitous of those that malign them is an issue for another day but Lepselter’s covering for his wealthy coddled client is morally indefensible. He could have said something like, “Well, Tiki is under a lot of stress and that caused him to say something that was wrong and with which he does not agree. He is really sorry.” No such words dripped from Lepselter’s lips.

Are Barber’s words morally obscene? Of Course. Are they perniciously insensitive? Also, of course. No decent human being could argue otherwise. And now we can demonstrate persuasively why.

More later

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